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COVID-19: No new restrictions in N.S., but ‘things can change very quickly,’ says premier

Click to play video: '36 Nova Scotians hospitalized with COVID-19, 4 in ICU: Houston' 36 Nova Scotians hospitalized with COVID-19, 4 in ICU: Houston
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston shared hospital statistics on Monday amid a surge in COVID-19 cases driven largely by the Omicron variant. He said there are currently 36 Nova Scotians in hospital due to the virus, with five of those hospitalized prior to the Omicron spread. Plus, of those hospitalized due to COVID-19, four are in intensive care units – Jan 3, 2022

Nova Scotia isn’t bringing in any new restrictions, but the province’s premier and top doctor say they’re continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation as the Omicron variant spreads.

The province announced 1,020 new infections on Monday, following a weekend that saw nearly 1,900 new reported cases.

Of the new cases, 664 are in the Central Zone, 120 are in the Eastern Zone, 104 are in the Northern Zone and 132 are in the Western Zone. Nova Scotia Health labs completed 6,303 tests on Sunday.

“While there are no new restrictions or changes for today, I would tell Nova Scotians we are watching and we will not hesitate to do whatever it is we think is necessary to keep Nova Scotians safe,” said Premier Tim Houston during a news conference.

“At this volume, things can change very quickly.”

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Click to play video: 'No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier' No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier
No new COVID-19 restrictions in N.S. but ‘things can change very quickly’ says premier – Jan 3, 2022

Read more: COVID-19: Nova Scotia reporting 1,893 new cases over the weekend

He said there will be another news briefing on Wednesday, following two more days of research and discussions.

Houston said hospitalizations are still relatively low. As of Monday, there were 36 people in hospital due to COVID-19 — two more since the last report on Friday — with four in ICU.

Since the Omicron variant arrived, 31 people have been admitted to hospital. The other five were in hospital before Omicron arrived.

Click to play video: 'Dr. Strang responds to increased COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia' Dr. Strang responds to increased COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia
Dr. Strang responds to increased COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia – Jan 3, 2022

For comparison, Houston noted that on May 30, there were 582 active cases and 53 people in hospital, including 18 in ICU.

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Even as high case numbers continue to be reported now, with an estimated more than 5,000 active cases, hospitalizations aren’t rising as quickly, he said.

“This variant appears less severe but the volume (of cases) is certainly breathtaking,” said Houston.

The ages of those in hospital range between 19 and 98, he said, with an average age of 72. Houston said 77.8 per cent are vaccinated “to some degree,” but did not provide more information.

Read more: COVID-19: N.S. test results could now take up to 4 days due to volume

During the news conference, Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said he was “not at all surprised by the case numbers, despite the hope that I had that we would have hit our peak.”

“We certainly had more gatherings over the holidays and those, combined with a highly infectious variant, was likely to lead to high case numbers,” he said.

He said that ICU numbers remain “very low and stable,” but he was concerned by the operational impacts of the health-care system, given that hundreds of workers are isolating due to COVID-19.

Read more: Nova Scotia’s winter back-to-school plan for COVID-19 and the concerns some are having

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Strang said the province is looking at ways to address the impacts on the health-care system and will have more to say in the coming days.

In the meantime, he said Nova Scotians should continue to follow the restrictions currently in place.

“Right now, we can’t justify a stricter lockdown but nor can we justify throwing the doors wide open,” Strang said.

Booster eligibility

The province also announced Monday that those aged 30 and over are now eligible for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, if at least 168 days have passed after their primary series.

This means about 451,000 Nova Scotians 30 and up are eligible to schedule a booster dose this month, according to a release from the province.

It said it’s “strongly recommended” that those under the age of 30 receive the Pfizer vaccine for their booster, as recent evidence shows there’s an increased risk of myocarditis/pericarditis in young adults from the Moderna vaccine as compared to the Pfizer vaccine.

Read more: COVID-19: Halifax psychiatrist says people need to be taught ‘mental fitness’ skills

People who received two doses of AstraZeneca or the one-dose Janssen vaccine can still schedule a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine.

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Frontline healthcare workers and designated caregivers are still eligible for a booster shot regardless of age, the release said.

“Frontline and community healthcare providers who are under the age of 30 and eligible for a booster dose should be prepared to provide proof of designation and are encouraged to bring their professional licence, work identification or letter from their employer to their appointment,” it said.

Booster doses can be booked online or by calling 1-833-797-7772.

“Nova Scotians are encouraged to be patient as vaccine appointments are currently limited,” it said. “If you cannot find an appointment in your area, more will be added. Appointments are added to clinics across the province on an ongoing basis.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Nova Scotia to focus on hospitalizations rather than daily case counts' COVID-19: Nova Scotia to focus on hospitalizations rather than daily case counts
COVID-19: Nova Scotia to focus on hospitalizations rather than daily case counts – Dec 30, 2021

During the briefing, Houston said while the province has enough booster doses for everyone who is eligible, one of the biggest challenges of getting boosters into arms is human resources.

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He is asking for people like retired physicians, dentists, retired physicians and medical residents to apply to work for the province’s vaccination clinics online.

According to the province, 1,646 people have stepped up so far to help with vaccine delivery.

“The more people that step forward to help out, the quicker we can get the boosters in arms,” said Houston.

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